For my first post to this collaborative effort, I will borrow a previous post from my own blog, because it serves to define what has been happening in my world. I am an ELCA Lutheran, and I was present at the historic assembly this August when gay clergy and blessing of gay relationships was ratified by the voting members. I’m a gay ally, and I was at the assembly as a Goodsoil volunteer, which is a Lutheran LGBT advocacy group that has been around for awhile. This post appeared immediately after the momentous vote.
Since then, a dissident group called Lutheran CORE has been saber rattling and causing many congregations to withhold funds from the mission of the national church. A trickle of congregations is following the constitutional process of withdrawing from the ELCA. More about post-assembly machinations to follow.
“They called the question!”
When the facilitator in the darkened computer room made this announcement, many abandoned their computer screens and scrambled back to the floor of the assembly. Others, tweeters mostly, remained at the ready to release the news – what news? – into cyberspace.
Up in the Goodsoil Central room, LGBT folks, some volunteers but others gathered from around the twin cities to share in this moment, clustered around a big screen TV monitor, clutching the prayer scrawls wrapped warmly around their shoulders. A horde of red vested volunteers left their desks or their floor monitoring stations and assembled around the big screen in the registration area.
Was this another false alarm? The question had been called at 11:00 a.m. but the vote to stop debate failed. The plenary session was adjourned for the midday worship service and those with differing views shared bread and wine together. Then came the lunch break followed by other scheduled business. In mid-afternoon, the question was called a second time, but again the motion to end debate failed and emotional three minutes speeches continued rapid fire, first from the red mike, then the green, then red again.
The tone of some was harsh: “Are you willing to jeopardize your mortal soul?” asked one, but that was the exception; most expressed the angst of interior wrestling, along with Jacob at the ford of the Jabbok, to discern the will of God. Some reached across the aisle to touch their brother as if to say, “I disagree, but I know your heart, and it is pure.”
The motion to end debate and call the question succeeded on the third try, and the hall hushed as Bishop Hanson said, “Let us pray.” And then came the electronic vote, “push one for yes, two for no,” intoned the bishop. Seen only by him, the tally appeared on the Bishop’s monitor; he hesitated for a moment, and then said, “when the results appear on the big screen, please do not respond with clapping or cheering but with prayer.”
559 yes, 451 no.
No one was surprised, but the moment had arrived. Gays who love their God but also love another would be allowed to serve as ordained, rostered leaders of their church. Openly. Recognized and supported. The reaction among a thousand voting members and another thousand assembled guests and observers was muted. By twos and threes and fours and fives, the children of God huddled together in tears and prayer, some in joyous thanksgiving and others in grief.
Thy will be done.